“I’m a lawyer. Who’s just been made a QC (Queen’s Counsel). Startlingly!

How do I explain what the QC ceremony was? It’s an accolade for court lawyers to recognize excellence at the bar. So it’s lovely and startling.

I’m the only woman QC practicing in Christchurch which is outrageous. When I graduated from law school, Judith Ablett-Kerr, who you will have heard of, she had just been made a QC. And I remember at the time, she was the third woman QC in New Zealand, and that was 1995 or something like that. And here we are, however many years later and I’m only the sixth in the South Island.

I have worked very hard. I feel very proud. I got such an outpouring of congratulations from female lawyers around the country which was unexpected.

I’ve done some unusual things in my career. I have been both a prosecutor and a defence lawyer. I worked for about 12 years as a crown prosecutor; I did lots of murder trials. I was appointed as one of the counsel assisting the Royal Commission into the Pike River tragedy. Inquiry work is quite different to criminal prosecution.

I worked for a while as the public defender for Christchurch, but then I just randomly got a job in Cambodia; well, I’d been applying for UN jobs for years. This particular day, I got a phone call saying we’d like to interview you for a job in Cambodia. And they offered me the position and we moved about six weeks later. I was working for the co-investigating judge at the UN Khmer Rouge tribunal, investigating crimes against humanity from the 70s, and that was eye opening.

We came back to Christchurch in 2016 and I went out on my own as a barrister. I’ve also been working on the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care.

My whole career has been dealing with the terrible things people do to each other.

Look, I do have hope for humanity but It’s quite challenging sometimes to see what people do to each other. There are a few really bad people in the world who we should be protected from. And then there are people who just do bad things, when they’re in a really bad place.

I can’t think of a single client I have at the moment who isn’t in the place that they are now, in jail or whatever, because they haven’t been able to deal with something that happened to them when they were little. It’s really important that we stop doing bad stuff to our kids. We have a terrible bloody domestic violence situation in this country. This current abuse in care inquiry; hopefully the recommendations will affect change at a national level.

I’ve had my moments; I’ve had times where it’s been all too much. And it’s really important to have empathy for people that are having a terrible time. But ultimately, you’re not responsible for what’s happened to them or what they’ve done.

I don’t bring it home. I mean, Shaun would say the opposite. He knows if I’ve had a day in court, I will come home and I will basically cross examine him while we’re cooking dinner, you know! So apparently you can tell!

I just have a normal life, I guess. Hang out with my dog and Shaun and the kids. I read. I like to walk the dog. I’ve just started running, which is actually quite good. I mean I’m terrible at it. But it’s quite good for the Psyche.”

– Kerryn

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